Character Conversations: Sherry Cola and Anna Akana Use Their Voices To Speak Out

Actors Sherry Cola and Anna Akana have never been known to stay silent, especially when their own community is under attack. Just days after the tragedy in Atlanta, the two came together over Zoom to discuss their experiences as Asian American women, the representation they wish to see and their new creative endeavors they’ve developed over quarantine. 

Cola currently stars in the critically acclaimed Freeform series, “Good Trouble,” as Alice Kwan, a first-generation Chinese American lesbian who manages a communal living building. And Akana recently released a new EP called “No Longer Yours” and will be featured in Netflix’s upcoming superhero sci-fi series, “Jupiter’s Legacy,” as Raikou, a hero for hire who wields two swords. 

After reminiscing about the last time they saw each other (at Daniel Dae Kim’s 2020 Lunar New Year party that featured a swan-shaped ice luge), Cola pointed out the silver lining of the recent horrific events that plagued the AAPI community. “It’s powerful to see the community coming together in a way that we have never seen it before,” she shared. “It really took these tragedies for us to finally realize, ‘Oh, we belong here and let’s not back down.’” 

Akana returned the sentiment but revealed that she had felt helpless in light of the recent hate crimes. “All I can try to do is donate [and] share, but then also try to change the way Asian Americans are portrayed in the media,” she prompted. “Because we’re giving the public messages about who we are and how to treat us and for so long we’ve just been two-dimensional punching bags or punchlines.” 

The two then got incredibly candid, sharing their experiences in the entertainment industry. Akana recalled how earlier in her career the auditions were often stereotypical roles and even disclosed the racist and sexist treatment she endured during the filming of Marvel’s Ant-Man. But however traumatizing those experiences were, it has fueled both Akana and Cola to make content that better represents both Asian Americans and women. 

In addition to her music career and acting roles, Akana has a few projects she had a hand in writing that are now in development. Furthermore, Cola has been working on a comedy special that will feature sketches and personal stories along with stand-up. 

With the industry becoming more diverse, Cola described this time as being “limitless” for Asians as more and more people are breaking out of stereotypes. Akana also rejoiced in the new talent going into the audition rooms, naming Lauren Tsai and Jenny Yang as contemporaries to the likes of Constance Wu. “We don’t need to be in competition with each other,” Cola surmised, “we can truly empower each other and support and uplift.”